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SOCIAL CONTRACT

THEORIES
Key Concepts:
The State of Nature
The Social Contract
The Sovereign
Key Concepts:

 The State of Nature: A pre-social condition.


 The Social Contract: An agreement between
(a) members of the community or
 (b) members of the community and the
Sovereign.
 The Sovereign: The legitimate head of state
after the Social Contract: (a) a person or group
of persons, such as a monarch or a
government, or (b) the people representing
themselves.
KEY PLAYERS IN SOCIAL
CONTRACT THEORY
 Thomas Hobbes
(1588-1679): Argues
in favor of absolute
monarchy.
 John Locke (1632-
1704): Argues in
favor of
representational
democracy. Anti-
royalist.
KEY PLAYERS IN SOCIAL
CONTRACT THEORY
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712-1778): Argues in
favor of direct
democracy.
 Immanuel Kant (1724-
1804): Argues in favor of
a representational
system, but lead by a
monarch/government
with the people’s interest
at heart.
KEY PLAYERS IN SOCIAL
CONTRACT THEORY

 John Rawls (1921-


2002): Argues in
favor of an imaginary
social contract within
a democracy, an
“Original Position.”
VIEWS ON HUMAN
NATURE
 Hobbes: Humans are selfish by nature and must be
controlled.
 Locke: Humans are rational by nature, and can by-
and-large control themselves.
 Rousseau: Humans are good and compassionate by
nature, but can be corrupted by civilization.
 Kant: Humans are selfish by nature, but can control
themselves through rational, universalized thinking.
 Rawls: Humans are selfish by nature, and the Social
Contract must be made attractive by appealing to
everyone’s self-interest.
VIEWS ON THE STATE OF
NATURE:
 Hobbes: The State of Nature is a dangerous place, and “life of man “ is
“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

 Locke: The State of Nature exists any time humans haven’t entered into
an agreement with each other to participate in a government. Even so, it
is not chaotic because of human rationality, and the three natural rights
to life, liberty, and property.

 Rousseau: The State of Nature is a wonderful, rich environment for early


humans living solitary peaceful lives.

 Kant: The State of Nature is a fiction; the Social Contract is a rational,


moral concept limiting the powers of the sovereign. States are in a State
of Nature vis-à-vis each other.

 Rawls: The State of Nature is a fantasy, but we can use it to imagine


creating a fair society.
THE SOVEREIGN
 Hobbes: The absolute monarch (king or
queen)
 Locke: The people (all adult males) electing a
government in democratic elections
 Rousseau: The people vote on all matters; the
people are the Sovereign
 Kant: The monarch/government accepting the
rational limitations of legislative power,
governing for the people.
 Rawls: Modern Republican form of
government.
EFFECTS OF THE SOCIAL
CONTRACT
 Hobbes: People will live in peace but without rights
except for the right to self-defense
 Locke: The three natural rights which exist in the State
of Nature will be easier to enforce by the government.
Those who have given express consent will be bound
by the contract; those who have given tacit consent
can opt out and leave.
 Rousseau: Life will be fair for all if we employ the
general will and set aside our personal interests.
 Kant: The people will be fairly represented by the
Sovereign without actually having to participate.
 Rawls: We will have decided on a system that is fair
for everyone, using the “Veil of Ignorance.”
INFLUENCES
 Hobbes: Inspired Locke, and
indirectly, Jefferson
 Locke: Inspired Thomas
Jefferson in his Declaration of
Independence
 Rousseau: Inspired Jefferson, to
some extent, but also Kant,
Marxism, the environmentalist
movement, respect for
indigenous peoples, and modern
child pedagogy
 Kant: Influenced social
philosophies and the human
rights concept with his theory of
the rights of rational human
beings. Influenced John Rawls.